As a preface to the topic I'd like to say hello. Just a thirty something aviation enthusiast joining your ranks from Sweden. Hello!
...the storied Brabazon committee made no recommendations for bomber derived stop-gaps. Instead focusing wholly on new ventures in order to let British aircraft manufacturers catch up technologically. The Handley Page Hastings military transport derived Hermes was the only one, and it was delayed far too much to be useful. Converting the unpressurised Hastings to a DC-4 competitor was too radical to be done in a timely manner as it turned out. I propose that had production of Yorks and lengthened/enlarged Haltons been done before wars end the need for the Hermes would never have arisen. Then again, had the Avro Tudor been persevered with the entire question would be moot.
Hello. A little more on the Brabazon Committee.
In mid-1942 Britain had no commercial aircraft being produced except the Avro York.
At that time the outcome of the war was uncertain, but the UK Government wanted to look at future civil aviation needs, including the development of civil aircraft. The aircraft industry was producing thousands of aircraft a month for the war effort, and the Government wanted the industry to be viable after the war.
To consider aircraft needs, the Government set up the ‘Transport Aircraft Committee’. It was chaired by Lord Brabazon and is commonly known as the Brabazon Committee. The Terms of Reference were: to consider which current aircraft types could best be adapted for civil use, to draw up indicative specifications for new types, and to advise which companies could engage in the design of these aircraft.
The committee convened on 23rd December ’42. It solicited views from government advisors, aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers and BOAC.
The committee reported on 9 February ’43.
For immediate post-war use the committee endorsed production of the York, advocated conversion of Short Sunderlands to civil specification and proposed a civil derivative of the Handley Page Halifax. These were referred to as ‘converted’ types.
The committee prioritised the development of new types, and recommended that work begin immediately on aircraft to meet five requirements:
Type 1: Six or eight engines. Large. For the London to New York route.
Type 2: Twin engine. 20 passengers. UK to Europe routes. Similar to the DC-3.
Type 3: Four engines. Medium range for Empire routes. To replace the York.
Type 4: Jet propelled. Experimental Trans-Atlantic mail-plane.
Type 5. Twin engine. Feeder liner for UK and colonial use. Similar to the Lockheed 14.
It was thought that the larger new types would take up to five years or more to develop. It was anticipated that the Type 1 and Type 3 aircraft would be more capable than the DC-4 and Constellation.
The February ’43 report did not identify manufacturers.
BOAC, created in 1939 by merging Imperial Airways and British Airways, was under the control of the Air Ministry. The airline had struggled to find a satisfactory working relationship with RAF Transport Command, and as a result of this in March ’43 the entire board of BOAC resigned. This hiatus limited BOAC’s influence over the evolution of the Brabazon Committee requirements.
In May ’43 the ‘Transport Aircraft Committee’ reconvened to oversee the development of the aircraft produced against its requirements.
In June ’43 the manufacturers tasked to work on the requirements were identified as Avro, Bristol, Handley Page and Shorts together with Saunders Roe in a consortium.
In January ’44 work began on some of the types on the strict condition that it did not affect the war effort. In July ’44 UK military aircraft production peaked at 4,500 a month.
Technical advances led to the type specifications being reviewed. It became clear that jet and turbo-prop engines would become available. However, it was recognized that the development of jet and turbo-prop engines would delay the introduction of some of the new types, making the interim types more important. Over time, Vickers, de Havilland and other manufacturers offered aircraft against the requirements.
Type 1 was revised to have turbo-prop engines. Further types were added, including ‘Type 2A’, ‘Type 2B’, ‘Type 5A’ and ‘Type 5B’. Type 3 was revised in late 1944 to a requirement for larger, more advanced, aircraft.
The aircraft produced against the specifications were:
Type 1: Bristol Brabazon.
Type 2A: Vickers Viking and Airspeed Ambassador.
Type 2B: Vickers Viscount
Type 3: Avro Lancastrian, Avro Tudor I, Avro Tudor II, Handley Page Hermes.
Type 4: de Havilland Comet.
Type 5A. Miles Marathon.
Type 5B. de Havilland Dove.
The Brabazon turbo-prop aimed to be a significant improvement on the DC-4 and L-049, but the type did not reach production.
The Viking was a ‘converted’ type, based on the Wellington bomber. It first flew in 1945 and entered service with BEA in 1946. 163 were built.
The Ambassador was significantly larger than the original Type 2 specification. Progress was slow; it not fly until mid-1947 and did not enter service until 1951. Only 23 were built.
The Viscount was significantly larger than the original Type 2 specification. It first flew in mid 1948 and entered service in early 1953. 445 were built, a significant number for the time, and it was widely exported.
The Lancastrian was adopted as a ‘converted’ type to meet the Type 3 requirement.
The long range Tudor I suffered from poor stability and high drag, which delayed production. It was rejected by BOAC.
The medium range Tudor II was also a disappointment and was also rejected by BOAC.
The medium range Hermes was originally based on the Halifax bomber, but the design evolved and was revised significantly. The type did not enter service until 1950. Only 29 were built.
The Comet evolved beyond the Type 4 ‘mailplane’ specification to become an airliner. It first flew in mid-1949 and entered service in mid-1952. 10 Comet 1s were built. Early success was followed by tragedy. By the time the improved Comet 4 entered service the Boeing 707 had flown and the Comet was little more than a stop-gap.
The Dove was smaller than the original Type 5 requirement (hence Type 5B). However, it was advanced and sold well around the world with 542 built.
The ‘Transport Aircraft Committee’ disbanded in December ’45
The failure of the Bristol Brabazon and Tudor and the late delivery of the Hermes left BOAC without UK produced long and medium range airliners in the immediate post-war years.
To meet the ‘London to New York’ and ‘medium range’ requirements, BOAC turned to the Constellation, Canadair Argonaut (DC-4M) and later the Stratocruiser.
With the benefit of hindsight, it could be said that it was very ambitious to expect UK manufacturers to switch from war production and leapfrog the DC-4 and Constellation. It must have been expected that US manufacturers would further develop their airliners. In 1946 the DC-6 and improved versions of the Constellation appeared, and in 1949 the Stratocruiser entered service.
Given that Avro produced the Lancaster, one of the most capable bombers of its time, it is perhaps surprising that the Tudor was not a success. Some sources suggest that changing requirements may have led to development being rushed.
It seems odd to me that one of the requirements was an airliner like the DC-3. We now know that thousands of war-surplus Dakotas and C-47s would become available to airlines. BEA flew Vikings alongside a large fleet of Dakotas.
On the other-hand the Viscount was a world beater, and the Dove was a success. It is interesting that Vickers and de Havilland were not originally selected as manufacturers, but did a better job of meeting customer needs than the companies that were.
Having said all that, in the middle of a world war it must have been very, very difficult to anticipate post-war needs. For the UK, the post-war world would be a very different place. The UK Government should be commended for trying.
Ever since childhood, when I lived within sight of London Airport, I have seldom seen a plane go by and not wished I was on it.”
With apologies to Paul Theroux - ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’